The only light in the bedroom came from the open door out to the hall. The room was quiet, the mood a settled and sleepy one; a familiar and loved one. Draped over the rocking chair lay the remains of a mermaid costume, and sitting in the seat was a plastic pumpkin bucket of candy.
“Once upon a time,” Grissom began softly, his voice low and steady, “Your mother and I got lost in a cemetery.”
Bingo looked up at her father from her bed, her expression interested. She softly stroked the fuzzy back of her stuffed hedgehog, Renata, and nodded for him to continue. Grissom did, his mouth pursing a bit.
“We’d been called out to investigate a 419 . . . “ He paused clearly wondering if he should have added that last, and Bingo grinned.
“A dead body.”
“You know too much specialized language for a ten year old,” Grissom observed, a little discomfited by that thought. His daughter patted his wrist.
“Did you find the body, Dad?”
“We did, but that’s not the point. The victim had been robbed and stabbed while putting flowers on his brother’s grave. Your mother and I had to follow his trail back in and through the cemetery to find the initial site.” He took a breath and added, “It was Halloween.”
Bingo frowned at her father, suspicion evident; he cocked his head and stared back at her blandly until she gradually nodded once again, her skeptical look still strong.
“The moon was out, and a cool wind was blowing through the cemetery. Mom was worried we were going to lose evidence if we didn’t hurry. I realized that the batteries in my flashlight were starting to fade, but your mother was right, so we went on. The cemetery was in a little valley, and the wind was pooling in it, stirring up dust and bits of leaves all around. Both of us had a hard time keeping our eyes open, and the tombstones weren’t laid out in any particular order.”
“You got lost?” Bingo asked, clutching Renata a little more tightly. Grissom nodded.
“We did. You know how the hills around Nana Avra’s house feel like they rise up and disappear when you’re not looking? It was like that, but much more . . .” he trailed off, trying to think of the right word. Bingo chirped up.
“ . . . Creepier.”
“Much more annoying,” Grissom replied with a smile. “A lot of the paths hadn’t been used, and it was difficult to orient ourselves.”
“Figure out where we were. Neither your mother or I were scared, but we WERE aware that we needed to finish up processing the scene before the contamination got too bad.”
“I would have been scared,” Bingo confessed. Grissom patted the ridge of her leg through the covers.
“If I had been there alone I probably would have been a little spooked myself, Sara-Mary. But I had your mother with me, and I wanted her to feel safe. Certainly she made ME feel safe.”
“Mom shoots really good,” Bingo agreed. Grissom pursed his mouth again, in the way his daughter knew meant he was trying not to smile.
“She does,” he finally admitted. “By now my flashlight had died, and she hadn’t brought hers, so we were using the light of the full moon to process the scene. There wasn’t much—some blood, and the flowers that the man had brought.”
“Did you have gloves on?” Bingo asked, a little sternly. Grissom looked over the top of his glasses at her and she smiled. He continued serenely.
“We bagged the flowers and took pictures of the bloodstains. Both your mother and I noted that there didn’t seem to be any footprints other than those of the victim. There were trees here in the low part of the cemetery and the wind whipped through them. One in particular was very big—a Eucalyptus I believe. The leaves rustled like a theater full of whispers, and it was getting colder; when I looked up, the branches looked like a claw hand over the moon.”
“Oooooooh!” Bingo shivered appreciatively. “And On Halloween, too!”
“Yes, the thought occurred to me as well. We were almost done when I looked at the tree once again. It had a big tombstone in front of it. When I went over to look at it, your mother came with me. There was a dank, terrible smell, too. We couldn’t quite read the inscription, so we had to squat down together, very close.” Grissom’s dimples flashed, briefly. His daughter yawned.
“Was it scary?”
“The tombstone was . . . odd,” he admitted softly, his voice low. “Your mother and I realized that right away. It didn’t match the others in the cemetery, and it was written in some strange language. She turned to look at me right when I turned to look at her . . . and we kissed.”
Bingo stared at him expectantly. Grissom arched an eyebrow at his daughter, and she rolled her eyes in return.
“Well . . . “ Grissom admitted, a little deflated by this response, “It was the first time.”
Bingo blinked a little, then wrinkled up her nose. “So?”
Grissom tried again. “I’d never kissed your mother before that, although I’d often wanted to. Most people would think it was a bit bizarre to kiss someone for the first time in a cemetery.”
“Yeah, but you kiss mom lots now. Sometimes too much,” Bingo grumbled. “You kiss her when she goes and when she gets back, and when you’re doing the dishes and sometimes on the sofa . . .”
Grissom sighed. “An acquired pleasure, I assure you. The point is that there we were in a cemetery on Halloween, crouching by an odd tombstone, kissing.”
“Did a guy with a hook for a hand come out from behind the tree and scream at you?” Bingo demanded. Grissom blinked a little.
“Did you see a big huge guy in a hockey mask with a big old butcher’s knife dripping with blood?”
“No,” Grissom muttered, his brows drawing together. “Neither did your mother and I see anyone with a glove of long knives or demented fiend carrying saws of any kind.”
Bingo looked both sleepy and exasperated. She lay back with her hands behind her head. “Well what the heck was so scary about it then?”
“Your mother . . . “ Grissom sighed, “ . . . got the giggles.”
Bingo laughed. “Oh maaaannnn! The--?”
“Yes. The really loud ones,” Grissom confessed, shaking his head. “The snorty ones that sound like she’s laughing and crying and choking all at the same time. And every time I tried to kiss her, she’d end up laughing in my mouth.”
“You mean on your lips,” Bingo pointed out. Grissom reddened a little, but nodded tightly.
“Precisely. Yes, against my lips. It was terribly embarrassing, and it got worse.”
“How?” came his daughter’s demand. Grissom paused, letting the suspense build; she started giggling even before he finally sighed.
“Warrick and Nick heard the noises your mother made and came running to find us. In the dark, they took a wrong turn and ended up splashing into a decorative pond.”
“Yes. A few minutes later, your uncle Jim got out the big klieg searchlight from his car. When he turned it on it was like having the sun right in your face. The four of us must have looked incredibly funny, because that’s when HE started laughing, along with the other officers with him,” Grissom admitted heavily.
Her father merely smiled.
After a few minutes, Grissom rose up and bent over his daughter, kissing her cheek and savoring her warm hug for a long moment. He stepped out of the room and into the light of the hallway to find Sara there leaning against the wall, her arms crossed, smiling.
“You forgot the most embarrassing part of all,” she whispered to him. Grissom reddened a little, and lifted his chin. He sighed.
“No dear, I think I’ll leave OUT the part about the two of us standing ankle deep in cow manure, right next to the sign that said, “Keep off the fertilizer.”
And just like her daughter, Sara giggled.